Archive for March, 2005

2005.03.31

Stuck For Character Names?

If you’re ever stuck trying to think of a name for a character in a story you’re writing, look no further than your spam mail. There are so many possibilities in name combinations that these idiots send out and all of them are probably made up so you’re not abusing anyone’s name deliberately. Here’s just a few that appeared in my spam box today.

Raquel Haley
Janell Nguyen
Odelia Kami
Shannon Margolis
Corine Darnell
Alisha Logan
James Gallagher
Morton Hurley
Christopher Link
Cleveland N. Sheppard

As you can see some of the names probably aren’t that bad and most would make interesting names. Dig through your spam and start making your lists!

Comments Off | Catergorized: geek  writing

2005.03.29

Swimming With Sharks

What a great movie. However I’m not talking about figurative Hollywood idiots in this case, I’m talking about sea creatures with a mouthful of teeth.

Ann and I went up to Bolinas on Sunday to check out the surf and get wet. The waves were very small but very rideable and we were having a good time. There were only two other people out there, too, so there was no competition for space.

I was sitting out on my board when Ann thought she stepped on something. It could have been anything from her leash to a rock, but it left her feeling a bit weird. Then out about 250 meters to the west north west I saw a creature swimming around. At first I thought it was just a very large seal, but something looked a bit off to be just a seal. I pointed it out to Ann. The other two surfers saw me pointing, too, and watched.

Eventually we saw what might have been a fin. Ann thinks it was for sure but I don’t know. The other two guys decided they were getting out of the water, though, so we decided that, perhaps, it would be prudent to depart ourselves.

I still am not sure what the creature was. It might have been a dolphin, though we suspect they usually roam about in pods. If it was a whale it was a very small one. The likely candidate is a shark but I just can’t believe that. Still, if it was, I’m impressed that I didn’t instantly panic given my almost lifelong fear of the garbage scowls of the sea. I am actually looking forward to getting out in the water again, even. I won’t say I’m over my fear, but I’ve discovered that I’m comfortable with the water finally and my worries are more grounded in reality.

Comments Off | Catergorized: life  surf

2005.03.25

Whatever Happened to Michelle Pfeiffer?

Whatever happened to Michelle Pfeiffer? I mean, after looking at her entry on the IMBD I see she’s still working, but she hasn’t been in the news like so many big stars seem to crave. Actually I really appreciate that she’s still working and not trying to hog the limelight. To me that indicates she’s still a real person.

Anyways, I posed a sort of trick question because I saw her in Menlo Park today. She sat right behind me as I ate my sandwich.

Comments Off | Catergorized: life  movies

2005.03.24

Downstairs Bottom Wet Burp

A downstairs bottom wet burp occurs when a cat sits on the floor and leaves a little round mark.

8 Comments | Catergorized: life

2005.03.23

Vacancy and Occupancy

One of the continual debates in religion is: What is the Soul? The raw definition is specific and vague at the same time.

1. The animating and vital principle in humans, credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity.

2. The spiritual nature of humans, regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state.

3. The disembodied spirit of a dead human.

Death seems to be regarded as the point at which the Soul leaves the body, but what if the Soul is one’s conscience? One’s awareness of the world is at least part of what makes us human above and beyond any biological definition. What happens when you have no more awareness of the world around you? What if your Soul vacates your body even when it’s still alive?

The case of Terri Schiavo has been dominating the news. The religious pundits calling for her feeding tubes to be reconnected say it is immoral to let her die, but what isn’t being asked by anyone in the religious community is what if her Soul left her body 15 years ago? If the occupancy of her body by a Soul is required for their continued support it is a question they should ask. I think her Soul, if there is one, has ascended and her body is now a sad shell that the living grieve over and won’t let go.

Personally I am disgusted with the behavior shown by these people who are Pro-Life before birth and now, suddenly, Pro-Life after a person is physically alive yet spiritually dead, yet who conveniently ignore every stage in between. What about the starving, the diseased, the mentally and physically disabled? I know it’s a generalization to lump all Pro-Life folks into this lumpy soup, but the lumpy soup is where most of them are.

It’s not that I don’t care about their issues or even whole heartedly disagree with them, but if I were in Terri Schiavo’s position I would be squirming in my living grave because my family refused to grieve and let me go. I would hope that if our positions were reversed my family would have the decency to eventually remember me not as a vacant body but as a loving memory.

2 Comments | Catergorized: thoughts

2005.03.22

The Ghost Town of San Jose

I had reason to be in San Jose this weekend. Driving around the downtown area on a Saturday night I’ve decided San Jose is a ghost town. Not that it was completely dead but I would have thought that in a town that claims a population of over 900,000 would have a livelier night life than I saw. It didn’t help that it seemed about 30% of the businesses seemed closed or for rent.

I am sure I have a skewed vision of San Jose, but I think what might make the difference is that San Jose is part of the New America where people drive everywhere for anything. No one lives in concentrated areas; what they call population density in urban planning departments. I can see they’re trying to remedy this, but it hasn’t happened.

This is in opposition to other cities I’ve lived in where people could walk from where ever they lived in the city to shops and night life areas, and these districts had enough foot traffic that the businesses were profitable. These tend to be older cities, I think, like New York City and it’s boroughs, Washington DC, and San Francisco. These are all cities founded before the advent of the automobile and their sensibilities are different than modern cities.

I couldn’t live in San Jose. More power to the people that are there, but I could not live in a place like that. I would just get depressed.

2 Comments | Catergorized: life

2005.03.21

Once Upon a Time in America Introduction

We still have common concerns and, hopefully still, common sense to see past our difference and reach our common goals.I am writing this series because I think America is forgetting many stories it once knew about itself. Worse, many of the stories being told now are distortions with little or no moral value. Instead of good stories that bring us together, uplift us, and make us proud we have the mass media telling the stories and whose goal is to sell advertising or make a profit. So many people I know are ashamed to be American because they disagree with the dominant flavour of government at the time. In President Clinton’s day my conservative friends were disappointed and outraged that he would allow his personal scandal to scar the reputation of America. Today my liberal friends are just as shamed and angered at President Bush’s actions in Iraq and his handling of domestic issues.

Somewhere along the way we lost our pride, patriotism and unity as the American people. How many liberals and conservatives think America should be divided into two nations by Red and Blue states? “Divide and conquer,” they say in war. We have been divided, and we are being conquered by ourselves. I am often cynical myself, but somehow I always remain patriotic and true to my idea of America. In reality is we have more in common than we have differences. We still have common concerns and, hopefully still, common sense to see past our difference and reach our common goals.

I am trying to put these ideas in your head. I’m trying to give simple stories that hopefully remind people of what it sometimes means to be American. If you have ideas for more of these leave a comment and let me know. Stories, events, people, places… Whatever inspires you to be proud to be an American despite all the bad things.

I am not the best writer in the world, but I will try to give voice to your voice.

List of articles in this series:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

4 Comments | Catergorized: political  thoughts

2005.03.17

Once Upon a Time in America Part Six

Once upon a time in America people stood up for other people, even if they disagreed or simply didn’t like them. Like the guy who disagrees with flag burning but supports others right to burn it or the woman who thinks that abortions are wrong and would prefer people not do it but understands that under extreme circumstances there are reasons for having one. Blatant white supremacists have marched in cities because, despite what we think of them, they have the right to Free Speech. So long as you weren’t hurting anyone else you could do almost anything you liked.

One of the premises of our military, our police and judiciary is that regardless of your actions or words, so long as you aren’t breaking the law you have a right to do and say what you will, and they will defend your right. They believe in the Constitution, which states that we are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and those rights are worth defending for ourselves and our posterity.

People used to see people with strange ideas and behaviors, shake their heads and move on. They didn’t try to shove their opinions down their throats. Courtesy was normal and expected, even among bitter rivals. Somewhere along the way we lost this common courtesy. Now we shout down those who disagree with us. We don’t listen to those with different opinions, dismissing them as stupid ignoramuses who just don’t get it.

It is not possible to be a truly open and tolerant society. It is human nature to like or dislike people or ideas and to be prejudiced against them. However we used to keep these opinions more or less to ourselves but not anymore. Common courtesy cannot be taught at school by teachers. It begins in childhood at home and spreads along life experience among friends, family, work and social life and requires all of us to be students and teachers.

3 Comments | Catergorized: political  rights  thoughts

2005.03.17

Political Campaign Software

Slashdot recently had someone ask what free, open source software there was for running a political campaign. Here’s a compiled list of some of the packages mentioned.

Advokit
Personal Democracy Forum
CivicSpace
eGroupWare
OpenGroupware
Democracy in Action
OpenACS
Drupal
Asterisk
ShadyDial (add on for Asterisk)

The full article with comments is here. Can anyone think of more software that would be useful?

Comments Off | Catergorized: political  technology

2005.03.16

Once Upon a Time in America Part Five

Once upon a time in America we had heroes. They were not perfect human beings, but they saw something that needed doing and they did it. They were in the right place at the right time and did the right thing. These were the people who inspired us because of their uncompromising natures and their desire to be more than they were. Young people wanted to imitate their heroes.

Neil Armstrong and his walk on the moon. President Kennedy and his call to public service. The Reverend Martin Luther King and his march towards equality. Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and their quests to be the greatest ball players they could be. The Founding Brothers of America still command the greatest respect we can give them, and how many kids wanted to learn how to fly because of Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh? Not one of these folks were perfect people, but many looked up to them none the less and tried to follow their exemplary examples.

Today it seems we lack the celebrity heroes we once had. There are famous people in America, but we are more aware of their faults than their strengths. We stopped thinking of them as heroes because we saw that they were just human and we wanted more than that.

Yet heroes do exist today. They just are not praised widely and loudly, though they should be. There are people who stand up to criminal activity. There are police and firefighters who, despite criticism, save lives everyday. There are the doctors and nurses who help even the uninsured and the lawyers who do pro bono cases because they believe in their client’s rights and innocence. Our military is full of heroes with a consuming sense of loyalty and duty to America. Teachers do their parts to educate the next generations of citizens.

Millions of people contribute the health, wealth, and well being of our great nation. Look around you and you’ll see heroes everyday. You are a hero when you help your neighbor in hard times, or pick up a piece of garbage on the streets and put it in the bin. Be your own hero and people will respect and admire you for it.

Comments Off | Catergorized: political  science  technology  thoughts
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